I Spent 48 Hours in Waterloo, Here's What I Learned

Could ETHWaterloo once again birth the next major trend in Web3? I went to the college town to find out.

DeFi Dave
DeFi Dave
June 26, 2023
I Spent 48 Hours in Waterloo, Here's What I Learned

Ah yes, Waterloo, Canada, the home of the University of Waterloo. Located a little over an hour drive from Toronto, this seemingly unassuming venue has played a pivotal role in the history of Ethereum. It is where Vitalik Buterin went to school before he dropped out to pursue what would become his life’s mission (Ethereum itself), and in 2017, it was the birthplace of one of the first viral NFTs, Crypto Kitties. Now an entire cycle and a half later, hackers of all skill sets once again descended upon the college town to participate in one of the more builder-driven events I’ve seen.

Waterloo is the ideal location for a hackathon because it’s accessible for builders to venture to and out of the way enough to repel the typical extractive class of conference goers that you often find in more major city affairs. What’s the point of paying thousands of dollars for a ticket just to see the same faces over and over again? In addition, ETHWaterloo’s bear market timing added another filter to the event; the participants were there not because of mania in prices, but rather for having genuine interest in building.

The Toronto blockchain scene was out in force at Waterloo which was shown at the “Were So Fkn Back” Happy Hour that Frax and Flywheel hosted with others that Friday. Berachain, Redacted, and BadgerDAO that all call Toronto home were in attendance there. It’s no surprise that the city has such quality caliber of projects, especially with the pipeline of talented devs that exists between Toronto and Waterloo. With all this momentum in the area, it’s no wonder why the 6 is a hotbed for development.

The Time For Real World Applications Has Come

In his opening speech, Vitalik emphasized that Ethereum has reached a point where applications are ready to take center stage. As one of his first slides stated, if the 2010s in Ethereum’s were about theory, then the 2020s are going to be about practicality. Yet, in order for applications to be built, there must be a way for people to use them easily which comes with scalability and usability. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Vitalik encouraged hackers to focus on building wallets with privacy in mind as well as utilizing cross-chain communication between L2s. Speaking of scalability, one of the more interesting finalists from Waterloo was Roll a Mate, an application that allows users to send transactions on Ethereum mainnet for just a few cents.

ERC-6551, the Russian Doll of Accounts

ERC-6551 is a new primitive that automatically turns any NFT into a token-bound account capable of sending and receiving ERC-20, ERC-721, and ERC-1155 tokens making them essentially the reverse of a soulbound NFT (instead of NFTs permanently tied to an account, they are accounts permanently tied to an NFT). Without requiring any change or upgrades at all, ERC-6551 makes organizing and managing wallets a hell of a lot easier. For example, have a Remilia collection you want to organize? Dedicate a Milady be the Russian doll for all of your Remilios, Bonklers, etc. Or want to dedicate an account that is solely for aping memecoins? Designate a Lo-Fi Pepe to that as well.

The current status of the primitive is that it has not been enshrined as an open standard yet, but is currently up for discussion in the Ethereum community. At Waterloo though, the versatility and usefulness of ERC-5661 was clearly on display with three finalists utilizing the primitive for their projects; Fukuro utilized it to create an auction marketplace, Piggybank made an ETH savings account, and Tokenbound Titans implemented it for NPC gaming.

Hyperlane Brings Modularity to Modularity

Hyperlane is an interoperability framework that allows developers to customize cross-chain experiences. Modularity has been a concept growing in popularity and for good reason. It’s beyond obvious that the we are heading to a multichain world, yet the question remains, what is the most effective and safest way to connect them? Instead of having “one size fits all” approach, Hyperlane gives developers the optionality of which type of interoperability is best for their project. Whether it's optimistic, light nodes, or something in between, Hyperlane provides developers with API and SDK support to craft custom solutions.

Worldcoin is Building a Global Identity Framework

I took a moment to stop by the Worldcoin booth because I was distracted by the cute orb kitty (how could you not though). Yet, like many, I feel a sense of uneasiness having my iris scanned and with generally how Worldcoin brands itself. That being said, Web3 identity is a massively unexplored frontier that will be essential in onboarding users and Worldcoin is presenting intriguing solutions.

For one, Worldcoin’s World ID (the iris scan) is effective for preventing sybil attacks and attesting to humanness. Iris scans are a balance between being more unique than fingerprints and not as invasive as DNA tests. To alleviate privacy concerns, Worldcoin deletes iris scans and decouples proof-of-personhood from wallets using Semaphore, a zk-powered privacy layer for Ethereum dApps. Furthermore, the World App is both a global identity and finance app that although not required, combines World ID with a SAFE wallet that allows anyone to access Web3 and prove their personhood with ease. Much of Worldcoin’s activities are open-source, yet I am curious to see what their communication efforts will be to temper people’s privacy concerns. Today, almost 2 million people have had the eyes scanned by the orb and with an airdrop allegedly on the way later this year, that number is destined increase.

A Sign for Things To Come

Overall, the mood at Waterloo was positive and pragmatic. Builders are less distracted and are focusing on what will actually be useful. It will be interesting to see if anything from this hackathon will be integrated into Frax or the wider Ethereum ecosystem. For example, having ERC-5661-powered NFTs on Fraxchain would make keeping track of interactions a lot easier and the World App may prove to be a proper wallet solution for the on-chain world. With ETHcc around the corner, it will be interesting to see how these trends towards practical Web3 applications are going to be presented and further play out in the future.

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